Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A holiday visit

Thanksgiving this year was...interesting. Thursday was a normal Thanksgiving gathering with my side of the family. Then things got frustrating.

We had made plans with Olivia's birthmother, and she was supposed to spend the night on Thursday. Then the plan changed...on her end. She ended up spending the night on Friday instead, which turned out OK, although the last minute changes did throw off our weekend a bit. We had a lovely time, made a traditional Thanksgiving meal, enjoyed some time together. And I found myself with conflicting emotions, as always happens when she is with us.

My first instinct is to think of more ways to invite her into our celebrations. Her life has never been "traditional". Thanksgiving was barely noticed in her family, as it is. It seems she and those around her have struggled just to "get through" whatever the day presents them. So when she spends time with us, she relaxes. She sees Olivia in her regular environment and rejoices in her happiness and stability. She seems to wish such a life for herself. And some of the recent choices she has made seem to indicate that she's on her way to achieving more stability in her life. But, seeing her joy at being a part of our little family celebrations makes me want to involve her more often.

And then...she allows Olivia to see parts of her life that are foreign to Olivia. The smoking, the language, the mannerisms...things we don't want Olivia to pick up on. And so far, Olivia hasn't...much. In fact, she corrects Samantha (and others) on certain things. "We don't say that word." "Ain't is NOT a word!"

But, as much as she tried to conceal it from Olivia during our visit, Olivia picked up on the fact that Miss Samantha would sneak outside for a cigarette. There's this dissonance in her mind...she prays nightly for Miss Samantha to stop smoking. She knows that it is bad for your lungs. Her little 4-year-old mind can't comprehend why someone would do something that is bad for them.

And, she ADORES Miss Samantha. She doesn't see her often, but when she does, she wants to hold her hand and walk by her and have her watch EVERYTHING she does. So after we got home from dropping Miss Samantha off on Saturday, it didn't surprise me much to find Olivia playing "smoking" in the backyard. Which, of course, prompted a Mommy-Daughter heart-to-heart about people we love and how some of their choices aren't the best and we don't want to encourage such choices or be like them in that way because it can be harmful to ourselves, etc.

Now that Olivia's old enough to observe these things, watching the "play smoking" makes me want to place some distance between us and her birthmother. I know that is not helpful either, as I'm sure it will just make Olivia focus MORE on her when we do get together. But I feel the need to protect my child from certain things while she is still very, very impressionable.

I feel there are great benefits to open adoption, especially for Olivia and her future self-identity. I just hope she can separate who she is from who her birthmother has been based on her birthmother's individual choices. Samantha is a product of her environment and her own upbringing, which was turbulent, to say the least. But she and Olivia exhibit similar personality characteristics, and I pray every day that Olivia's upbringing can help her channel those traits and tendencies in good, productive ways.

Monday, November 21, 2011


When you are in your twenties, 30 sounds old. And then you hit 30 and realize that all of those twenty-somethings are just kids. You, however, are still considered to be among the young crowd, except now you are young with life experience.

Thirty-five is a little least for women. It seems to be the magical line where your biological clock starts ticking a little louder and your body starts falling apart. You slide from a category of regular women of childbearing age to a category that is high risk if pregnancy should occur (not that it's likely either way for me). Something about hormones and chromosomes and whatnot. Women over 35 are supposed to be at risk for this and that and the other thing. I think I'm supposed to be gaining weight...and aren't your bones supposed to start falling apart at this point? It just seems like the arbitrary point where everything is supposed to start going downhill.

I'm not worried. I feel better than I have in years. Because of my reproductive health issues, I disciplined myself to eat better than I ever hav and weigh less than I have at any point in my life post-high-school. I sleep well, I enjoy my life, and I don't have a lot of extra stress. While my family size is smaller than I would have imagined it to be at this point, I love my family and the time we spend together. It just seems...right. I am content.

So, although it is raining AND a Monday, I'm going to say that on my thirty-fifth birthday, I am pretty happy. Life is good.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Interview Project: Introducing Kristin

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2011

One of my favorite bloggers on adoption and related issues, Heather, is hosting an interview project in the adoption-related blogging world. I was randomly paired with Kristin from Parenthood Path. I really enjoyed reading through her blog and getting to know her a bit better through her online story and her interview questions.

Her interview is below. My questions are in italics. Her answers are not. As a point of reference, her husband is M., her son is D., and her son's birth mother is V. Hope you enjoy getting to know Kristin as much as I have!

You and I both have very young adopted children, so we haven’t yet had to deal with school family tree projects or questions from our kids about why their family is different from other families. It does make us think through, about how the birthmother/birth family fits into OUR family as a whole. In your ideal scenario, what would be your birthmother’s role/involvement in your family?

Hmmm…First and foremost, I want D. to have a comfortable and natural relationship with V. (one that makes any scrutiny that his atypical family might receive easy for him to handle). Next, I want V. to have a comfortable and natural relationship with her son. Third, I want V. to have a comfortable and natural relationship with me and M. And last, you guessed it, I want M. and I to have a comfortable and natural relationship with V. I’m not sure how we will achieve these things as our lives progress, but I imagine it will continue to require openness, honesty, respect, and love.

You allude to some problems with maintaining your “ideal “open adoption relationship because the ball gets dropped by V. I can really relate to this. Has this difficulty caused you to re-evaluate your “ideal “relationship, or has it strengthened your resolve to find ways to keep the lines of communication open?

Both. I’d really like to have regular and predictable contact with D’s birth mom, but I’ve had to adjust my expectations a bit and work to “meet her where she’s at.” Shifting my focus has taken some pressure off of me, and I think it’s also helped me personally connect with her better when she is in touch.

Of course, I worry a lot about how contact that isn’t regular and predictable might impact D. It’s been tremendously helpful to learn from other parents (like Heather!) about how they see their role not as protecting their kids from disappointment and hurt, but helping them to navigate difficult (and inevitable) emotions in healthy and productive ways.

Do you have plans to try to adopt again? Why or why not?

I suppose you’ll just have to stay tuned to learn the answer to this question! I will say that our lives are VERY full and happy with the one beautiful child we have.

You’ve talked about positive adoption language on your blog before. What is the most annoying term/phrase you’ve heard used by family or friends in reference to your son and/or his birth family?

Yah, we’ve been asked if we’ve heard from his “real mom,” and other awkward and annoying things. Mostly, though, the slips have just come from people who mean well but just haven’t thought about the implications of their words and found better ways to express themselves. I guess we’re fortunate in that no particularly awful incident comes to mind.

It does bother me that despite all the educating and explaining we’ve tried to do, some people in our lives still seem not to appreciate why we want a close relationship with D’s birth family, regardless of any challenges that might bring.

How do you deal with family or friends who are “repeat offenders” in using language that is not helpful?

At this point, depending on the offender and the offense, I either shrug it off and move on, gently mention a preferred term or perspective, or (more often than I probably should) correct with a scolding tone and rolling eyes.

I’ve read adoption bloggers who fall in one of two separate ideologies: “He WAS adopted.” Or “He IS adopted.” Apparently, for many, there is a big difference in identifying this as a once-and-done event or as an ongoing part of who you (and your family) are. Into which camp do you fall? Why?

I actually wrote about this particular issue and how my views on it have changed in my last post about Positive Adoption Language. Basically, I think it needs to be up to the person who was/is adopted to decide what term to use, and when.

Personally, I am trying to train myself to say, “we adopted him,” rather than “he is/was adopted,” because I think that more accurately reflects an action the adults took, instead of some characteristic of our son.

Your infertility journey was similar to ours in that you didn’t try many of the more invasive, expensive procedures before pursuing adoption. I’ve found that a lot of people question that and wonder why we chose adoption instead of pursuing these technologies. What is the most compelling reason you can give for why adoption was your choice.

Quite simply, we were more confident adoption would make us parents than IVF. We also felt that adoption was more consistent with our values.

Yes, I will always miss never having been pregnant, given birth, or nursed my child. But now, when I go into my boy’s room in the morning and he’s jiggling with joy to see me, I am so, so glad we didn’t spend lots more time, money, and heartache on medical intervention. There is no way M. and I could have created a child so “perfect.”

My thought exactly. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Parent-Teacher conferences

I have a lot of stuff to catch up on. We'll start here.

Olivia goes to preschool at a Catholic grade school, and they do some things for the preschool just like they would for the rest of the school, including parent-teacher conferences. So last Wednesday, we met with Olivia's teacher.

I didn't really know what to expect. I know my kid is a little, well, bossy and overbearing. At least at home. Her preschool director has had nothing but good things to say about her, though, and the daily sheets she brings home from school are all pretty good. No notes for bad behavior. And I know she's learning stuff. But what is actually happening behind the scenes?

Well, Miss Bobbie, her teacher, started by pulling out a portfolio with her name on it. She showed us a triangle and a circle. "On the first day of school, we asked the kids to cut out some shapes. These are Olivia's. She has no trouble using scissors. These are very well done." So far, so good.

"This is her name as she wrote it on the first day." Perfect. Good. We saw some more samples of her work in cutting, coloring, arranging pieces, gluing, etc. Check, check and check. She is fine on all the motor skills and such.

Then we went to letter and number recognition. She tested "within the range where we want kids to be when they start kindergarten". Same with following directions. It is apparent that she's a bright and teachable child.

"Now, about Olivia's problems with M..." M is a kid in her class. Olivia has been talking about her since she started school. "M hit me today. I don't think she likes me. She's not very nice to me." This went on for a couple of weeks before I called the preschool director to see what was up. I was under no illusions that the problem was entirely M's...I was sure Olivia was causing her fair share of the trouble between the two of them. Which was why the teacher wanted to address it with us.

As it turns out, M and Olivia are two VERY strong personalities, more alike than different, and that is why they clash. Instead of separating them, though, the teacher intentionally puts them together for projects and assigns them tasks to complete together. I found that interesting, especially in light of the fact that Olivia has recently been coming home identifying M as her friend and has fewer and fewer complaints about her. The teacher is trying to help the girls learn ways to get along. So, I was pretty happy with the way they were handling that.

Also, the teacher explained that she tends to redirect Olivia's bossy nature, explaining that she doesn't ever punish a kid for being bossy. "I have seen those bossy preschoolers turn into student council presidents and leaders in their high school classes. We want to use that energy well and teach them how to be constructive with it."

So, overall, a good session!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy 4th birthday!

Today, Olivia turned 4 years old. We celebrated by taking her and her birthmother to the zoo. While there is a lot more I want to say about the day and our time together, for now, let's just say that it was a beautiful day and a successful outing and a good time was had by all.

And for now, I'm going to bed. More about this next week.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Home improvement, because we are on a roll in that particular arena

So, we have this screened porch. It has always been one of my favorite least for handful of weeks when the weather is seasonable enough to sit out there. But then it became storage for everything in the yard...rakes, sand toys, bikes, the grill.
Pictured in its recently-cleaned-out state. Usually it looks more like a storage barn without walls to hide all the crap.

Several years ago, we acquired this, um, interesting barrel furniture. Joe inherited it when his aunt died because she knew that he always admired it. But our house=not so big. So the furniture had been living in my uncle's basement. Except my uncle is selling his house. And we figured that five years is long enough to impose on someone's good nature to store all of our excess furniture.

So we moved it into the house, thinking we'd store it wherever we could find a place until we figured out what to do next. Except there is nowhere to store anything in our house, so it lives in the living room. The table has become the kids' favorite coloring place.

The couch, yes indeed, sits right in front of our other couch. Yes, it looks as weird as it sounds.

Oh yeah. There's a bar. Right now, it does duty as a changing table and/or a sewing table.

Here's the thing...there's nowhere to put my Christmas tree. And the third bedroom/a.k.a. storage room has become even more cluttered since I had to move furniture into there to make room for this furniture out in the living area.

Long story, short point. We have a contractor starting work on Monday to remove the screens on our porch and replace them with walls/windows to create an all-seasons sun porch. And then the barrel furniture will live out there, permanently. And that's what is going on here, now. The end.

Happy 11/11/11. Also, this little girl turns 4 years old tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In which I overdose on paint fumes and birthday cake

It's been a little heavy on photos and a little light on dialogue here lately. There are reasons for that. It's not that I don't have anything to say. It's just that I've been to busy to say any of it.

And here's why (more pictures).

We found ourselves with a completely free Saturday the weekend of Halloween (Oct 29th) and decided upon waking that this would be the day to paint the living room. Now, this wasn't a rash and hasty decision. We had decided to repaint last Thanksgiving after putting in the new floor. It took us until April to choose colors and then August to buy paint. So we had all the supplies and colors and whatnot. Now it was just time to do it.

We took this color:

and changed it to this color.
Now it goes nicely with the oriental rug in the living room. But we weren't finished yet. There was still the dining room/kitchen to repaint. I got super ambitious and decided that it must be finished by the following weekend (Nov 6th) when we were planning to have Olivia's birthday party. So I took this:
And turned it into this (all while the kids were playing in the other room or napping...I know, I got skillz).

It's a little shiny in that picture because it's still wet. And it looks exactly like the living room, except that it isn't. It is a darker shade, but photography doesn't do it justice.

So, overall, we took this:

and turned it into this:

Again, very hard to see how the two colors play together. So you'll just have to trust me when I say that they do. And here's the living room color with the floor and a touch of the rug.

And that's all. Because no one cares about my house colors except me. The end.

Moving on. Finished the paint on Thursday. Took the next two days to clean house and prepare for Sunday's birthday bash. It was a beautiful day, and the pint-sized guests played outside for most of it. We walked down to the local stables (about a quarter-mile away) for pony rides. The kids had fun. The birthday girl was pleased.

And a good time was had by all. She still has a few days until she's officially four (Nov 12th), but she still thinks she's big stuff.

Also, we have a dozen leftover cupcakes in the fridge. With homemade cream cheese icing. Who wants to help me eat them?

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The weather today is very nearly identical to what it was seven years ago...sunny, mid-60s and perfect for a wedding. It's hard to believe that it has already been seven years.
We've fit a lot of life experience into those seven years, though. And I love you more today than I ever have. Happy Anniversary, my love.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Early birthday party

We're going to have your birthday party in two days, Olivia. What do you think of that?

I think she's pleased.